The Norwegian Competition Authority supports EU Commission’s role in Illumina/Grail merger

Tomorrow, an appeal case will be heard in the EU Court of Justice. The case concerns a merger between the two global cancer detection companies, Illumina and Grail, which the EU Commission investigated at the request of France’s competition authorities. Norway and the Competition Authority support France’s request and the EU Commission’s investigation. We consider it important that such global mergers are investigated to protect both Norwegian and European consumers.

Illumina, a global player in genetic analysis, announced its desire to acquire Grail in September 2020. The merger was reported to U.S. competition authorities but was not notified to the EU Commission as it did not meet the notification thresholds in the EU Merger Regulation (EUMR). However, EUMR Article 22 allows member states to refer such mergers to the commission.

France requested that the merger be reviewed by the commission, and Norway supported this request. In March 2021, the commission presented new guidelines for the use of EUMR Article 22, and in September 2022, they prohibited the acquisition. Illumina sued the EU Commission, claiming that the commission did not have the right to assess the merger. They pointed out that the transaction was announced before the guidelines were published. In 2022, the General Court concluded that the commission had the right to assess the case.

While the case was being discussed, Illumina completed the acquisition. In 2023, the EU Commission fined Illumina €432 million for violating the EUMR. The commission concluded that Illumina’s acquisition of Grail would restrict competition and innovation in blood-based tests for early cancer detection in the entire EU/EEA, including Norway. In this way, the commission prevented negative consequences for Norwegian consumers.

EUMR Article 22 provides the EU Commission with a safeguard mechanism to capture mergers that are not subject to notification but may still have harmful effects on competition in the EU internal market. This contributes to the effective control of acquisitions by large, dominant actors, including acquisitions aimed at eliminating competition from newly established or potential competitors (so-called ‘killer acquisitions’), and strengthens merger control in the entire EU/EEA, including Norway.

The commission’s conclusion underscores the importance of international cooperation in enforcing competition rules, benefiting consumers in both Norway and the rest of Europe.

Illumina has appealed the case, and the hearing will take place before the EU Court of Justice on December 12.

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